Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Leo Santa Cruz vs. Carl Frampton

Barclay's Center, Brookly, NY, July 30
TV: Showtime
By Peter Lim

It may sound cliched, but all things being equal, the good big man always defeats the good little man. Given that the slightly bigger Santa Cruz (32-0-1, 18 KOs) also has an edge over Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) in power, quality of opposition and punch resistance, the outcome of this fight seems like a no-brainer.

Nothing can be taken for granted in the sport of boxing, though, and there have been exceptions to the rule in the big-man-versus-small-man department.  Davids have defeated equally or more accomplished Goliaths in the past, although the cases have been few and far between.

Michael Spinks became the first light heavyweight to win the heavyweight crown when he out-smarted Larry Holmes. Shane Mosley climbed two weight divisions to eke out a razor thin decision against Oscar De La Hoya. Roberto Duran, a natural lightweight, out-machoed the larger-framed Sugar Ray Leonard at welterweight in their first encounter. And Leonard came off a lengthy layoff, rose in weight and to the occasion to befuddle, bedazzle and dethrone long-reigning middleweight king Marvin Hagler.

While Frampton is not an all-time great like Spinks, Mosley, Duran or Leaonard, what he has going for him is his defense and ability to box from the outside. Mind you, Santa Cruz is no slouch when it comes to shooting punches from long range but it is almost a secondary skill set. Encoded in his Mexican DNA is the natural penchant to brawl; his boxing skills are merely a means to the further end of closing the distance and slugging it out in the trenches.

Santa Cruz's supposed size advantage becomes less significant when taking into account that he began his pro career as at 115 and rose to 126 just last year. Frampton, on the other hand, has campaigned at 122 for his entire career.

Given Santa Cruz's superior size, strength and versatility, Frampton's only chance to pull off an victory is to devise and execute the perfect fight plan. To do that, he should steal a page from the playbook of Winky Wright, one of the most under-recognized defensive technicians in the sport who excelled in defeating stronger, feistier opponents. Wright's upsets over Mosley (twice) and Felix Trinidad stemmed from his tricky, doublecrossing ability to feign a willingness to engage in an exchange only to pull away and sharp shoot his way to an academic albeit unspectacular victory.

Ultimately, though, Santa Cruz's big-fight experience and underrated ring IQ will tip the balance in this showdown. Frampton is no Winky Wright. He might give Santa Cruz fits initially with his movement and elusiveness but the Mexican makes the right adjustments to take control at the midway point and stop the Irishman in the ninth round.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Terrence Crawford vs. Viktor Postol

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV, July 23
By Peter Lim

At initial glance, Terrence Crawford vs. Viktor Postol, both sporting identical, undefeated records, seems like a dead even matchup. But on closer inspection, the feistier, faster Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs) has a far better knockout percentage against a significantly better level of opposition than Postol (28-0, 12 KOs).

What Postol has on his side is sounder basic fundamentals. He's cut from the same clothe as Vernon Forrest, Joe Calzaghe, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tomas Adamek, fighters who know how to sidestep and time flashier, speedier and even stronger opponents to kill their rhythm, beat them to the punch and win the contest. Forrest's dismantling of Shane Mosley in their first fight in 2002 was the quintessential example of how the proverbial slow-but-steady tortoise can defeat an overly-cocky hare in the squared circle.

Crawford is no slouch when it comes to fundamentals, though. He might sometimes get carried away when on the attack but his tight-enough defense and sturdy-enough chin ensures he avoids making the same mistake twice. Postol gives Crawford fits for four or five rounds but Crawford makes the right adjustments in the later half of the bout to cruise to a comfortable decision in the 116-112 to 117-111 range.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sergei Kovalev vs. Isaac Chilemba

DIVS, Ekaterinburg, Russia, July 11
By Peter Lim

A mere glance at Chilemba's 24-3-2, 10 KOs record reveals that he doesn't pack much punching power and he can be outboxed. Granted, he has pulled off a handful of upsets against previously undefeated fighters but he has also lost to 19-1 and 18-0 fighters. He will be out of his league against Kovalev by leaps and bounds.

Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs) has proven to be an A-plus caliber puncher and an A-minus caliber boxer at the very least. Nothing Chilemba does will bother him. The Russian assassin can end the fight early but chooses to toy with the South African for several rounds before crushing him in the fifth round.

Who knew Chilemba had such a good chin.  

Deontay Wilder vs. Chris Arreola

Legacy Arena, Birmingham, AL, July 16
TV: Fox
By Peter Lim

Until about five years ago, Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) would have been custom-made for Arreola. In his prime, the tough, concrete-chinned Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) had a crowd-pleasing knack for walking down slicker opponents with better skills, taking their best shots and steamrolling them with wrecking-ball hooks and crosses. But Arreola's punch resistance is not what it used to be and his reaction time has eroded with age.

Despite his imposing size, Wilder, 30, is alarmingly easy to hit. He has unheedingly allowed crude brawlers to effortlessly penetrate his guard and rock him with clean solid punches. So far, he has managed to get in the knockout punch before all of his opponents, but if the mediocre fighters the likes of Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas could stun him, who knows what kind of damage a seasoned top-notch heavyweight like Arreola in his prime might inflict on him.

Unless Arreola, 35, can turn back time and recapture his relentless pressure-fighting form, he will be custom made for Wilder at this juncture of their careers. Arreola has been reduced to a plodder, half a step too slow on his feet and a split second too slow on the trigger. Wilder will dictate the action, break him down, bust him up and stop him in the seventh round.

Kudos to Arreola's corner for stopping the fight. He's done as a major player in the heavyweight division.